Idaho youth first person to contract bubonic plague in state in 26 years

The unidentified boy is currently recovering at home in a stable condition after being treated with antibiotics in the hospital.

                            Idaho youth first person to contract bubonic plague in state in 26 years
(Getty Images)

If you are familiar with the plague, it is mostly from your history class in school. Tales of the bubonic plague frightened children out of their wits at school, but, after all was said and done, one could rest assured that it was a thing of the past and breathe easy about it.

After clocking a shockingly high death toll during the 14th century in Europe, cases of people being diagnosed with the disease are rather minuscule in modern times, reported TIME magazine.

According to medical authorities, the first case of bubonic plague in Idaho in 26 years has been contracted by a young boy.

The unidentified boy is currently recovering at home in a stable condition after being treated with antibiotics in the hospital.

It is still unclear whether the boy had contracted the disease in his home state or on a recent trip to Oregon, according to the Central District Health Department, which announced the news of the bubonic plague’s dreaded return.

Back in 2015 and 2016, ground squirrels residing near the child's house in Elmore County, Idaho, tested positive for carrying the disease. That being said, no more cases have been reported since then.

“Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea,” said Sarah Correll, an epidemiologist at the Central District Health Department. “People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife. Wear insect repellent, long pants, and socks when visiting plague-affected areas.”

During the middle ages, the bubonic plague, notoriously known as the "black death", claimed lives of millions across Europe. But thanks to modern medicine, those afflicted can now be treated easily. The bubonic plague's symptoms include visibly swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fever, and vomiting if left untreated.

That being said, the bubonic plague can still wreak havoc. It claimed 200 lives in an outbreak that hit Madagascar last year.

The Idaho case is the first human diagnosis since the early 1990s and is believed to be the only one reported this year, according to Daily Mail.

Christine Pearson, a spokesperson for the Central District Health Department, told BuzzFeed News in an email, "It appears this case was bubonic plague ... the child had a high fever that prompted his parents to take him to a health care provider where he was treated and tested."

The boy was diagnosed late last month after lab results confirmed that he had the bubonic plague, which affects the lymph nodes, unlike the horrifying pneumonic plague, which hits the lungs directly.

The plague reportedly infects around seven Americans a year and can be treated with antibiotic medication, according to Daily Mail. 

The most common areas where the disease is diagnosed are northern Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Colorado, all being hundreds of miles away from where the boy resides as well as his trip destination in Oregon.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11 percent of bubonic plague cases in the country have proven to be fatal. However, chances of survival have significantly increased since 1941, when there was a staggering 66% chance of death, owing to advances in antibiotics. 

Having said that, some researches found traces of Yersinia Pestis last year - the biological term for the bacterium which causes the disease.

The plague is usually contracted through fleabites and so any form of contact with infected animals could lead to transmission, according to Quanta Magazine.

While the Idaho case serves as a reminder that the dreaded disease is still dangerous to people and pets, epidemiologists say that it should not discourage recreationists from enjoying the outdoors in Idaho.

The CDC recommends people to wear gloves when coming in contact with animals that could potentially carry it and to keep fleas off your pets. It also urges people to respond quickly to any rat or mouse infestations in your residence.

According to Fox News, Health officials recommend the following:

1. Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents.
2. Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in affected areas.
3. Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or children.
4. Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents.
5. See your doctor if you have any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever after being in a plague-endemic area.
6. Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles, and put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as away as possible.
7. Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.